Obama's Resolve on Mideast Facing a Blunt Reality

[Los Angeles Times] Richard Boudreaux - "We have a 'yes we can' president who believes he can make it happen, but he faces a 'no you can't' reality in a region that has changed for the worst over the past eight years," said Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. Middle East negotiator. The Palestinian movement is in disarray, with the U.S.-backed leadership in the West Bank at odds with militant Hamas rulers in Gaza. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, traditional leaders of the Arab world, are ruled by wavering octogenarians who are hesitant to step in as peacemakers. Meanwhile, Iran's Islamist allies, Hamas and Hizbullah, have boosted their arsenals with logistical help from Syria and pose a lingering threat to Israel, giving Iran the power to sabotage any Israeli-Palestinian accord. Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition took office ten weeks ago on a wave of voter apprehension that withdrawing Israeli troops and settlers would turn the West Bank into a base for militant rocket attacks, as the 2005 pullout did in Gaza. Meanwhile, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas appears to have no strategy to reassert control over Gaza, and is so hamstrung by infighting in his own Fatah movement that he's scarcely able to govern the West Bank. His weakness helps explain Netanyahu's reluctance to negotiate with him on the core issues of a peace accord. "It's really hard to imagine how you get Abbas and Netanyahu into a negotiation that leads to a conflict-ending agreement," said Miller. "Why inflate expectations in such a grandiose manner when the odds of a breakthrough are so low?"

2009-06-12 06:00:00

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